The National Commission for Women (NCW) has asked all states to ensure that coaching centres and educational institutes strictly enforce the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

 

Details

  • The Commission has also asked to conduct awareness programmes on the Act among all stakeholders in order to ensure that cases of sexual harassment at work are reported responsibly and effectively.
  • The aim is to ensure that these coaching centres are registered with the relevant authorities and a background check is conducted on those responsible for running the centres.

 

What is the POSH Act?

  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was passed in 2013.
  • It defined sexual harassment, lay down the procedures for a complaint and inquiry, and the action to be taken. It broadened the Vishakha guidelines, which were already in place.
  • The Vishaka guidelines were laid down by the Supreme Court in a judgment in 1997. This was in a case filed by women’s rights groups, one of which was Vishakha. They had filed a public interest litigation over the alleged gangrape of Bhanwari Devi, a social worker from Rajasthan. In 1992, she had prevented the marriage of a one-year-old girl, leading to the alleged gangrape in an act of revenge.

 

What are the Vishakha guidelines?

  • The Vishakha guidelines, which were legally binding, defined sexual harassment and imposed three key obligations on institutions — prohibition, prevention, redress. The Supreme Court directed that they should establish a Complaints Committee, which would look into matters of sexual harassment of women at the workplace.
  • The 2013 Act broadened these guidelines.
  • It mandated that every employer must constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each office or branch with 10 or more employees. It lay down procedures and defined various aspects of sexual harassment, including the aggrieved victim, who could be a woman “of any age whether employed or not”, who “alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment”.
  • This meant that the rights of all women working or visiting any workplace, in any capacity, were protected under the Act.

 

Definition of sexual harassment

Under the 2013 law, sexual harassment includes “any one or more” of the following “unwelcome acts or behaviour” committed directly or by implication:

  • Physical contact and advances
  • A demand or request for sexual favours
  • Sexually coloured remarks
  • Showing pornography
  • Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

 

About the ‘National Commission for Women’

  • It was set up as a statutory body in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990.
  • Its mission is to strive towards enabling women to achieve equality and equal participation in all spheres of life by securing her due rights and entitlements through suitable policy formulation, legislative measures, etc.
  • Its functions are to –
      • Review the constitutional and legal safeguards for women.
      • Recommend remedial legislative measures.
      • Facilitate redressal of grievances.
      • Advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women.